Cranberry Relish

13 March, 2010


Winter sun filtered through the kitchen curtains as Lea sat at the table, legs swinging several inches from the ground. In front of her an old meat grinder, its pewter parts screwed together and clamped securely to the table edge by its bottom vice. Her grandmother brought over half an orange, dropping it into the mouth of the grinder. “We’re only going to use half the orange skin, since you thought it was too sour last year,” she said. Lea moved on the chair so she could reach the grinder, leaning over to grasp the handle. Her grandmother covered the mouth of the grinder that she had just dropped the orange into with the flat of her hand. She raised her eyebrows at Lea, who began to turn the handle.
Lea is about 6 years old, her grandmother some indeterminate age older. Lea’s messy brown hair is pulled back in a braid that has mostly fallen out of its plaits. Her grandmother is wearing the latest trend for ladies of a certain age, a turquoise and purple wind suit smartly accessorized with matching enameled earrings.
The lovely gush of orange pulp crackled through the old grinder, smelling so tangy and metal and sharp it was almost possible to smell it. The juice dripped into the bowl next to the grinder followed shortly by the pulp. Lea’s grandmother removed her hand when Lea stopped turning the handle, turning around to grab the bag of cranberries. Her grandmother began to pour the bag into the mouth of the grinder and Lea started to turn the handle again, laughing as the cranberries popped and tried to fly out of the opening. Her grandmother dumped about half the bag in and covered the opening with her hand again. Little chunks of white and red cranberry began to emerge from the grinder and fell into the glass bowl in front of it with soft plops. The popping of cranberries slowed and Lea’s grandmother removed her hand, pouring in the remainder of the bag. More popping as the cranberries ground and the bright pink juice began to drain into the bowl, leaking through the cracks of the machine and dripping on the table. Lea paused in the turning. “Nanny, do you want to turn the handle for a while? This is hard.”
“You always say that” her grandmother retorted, “And if you don’t want to help me we don’t have to make it next year. Besides, we’re almost done”. Lea reached for one of the slices of bright green apple on the table and almost had it in her mouth before her grandmother’s sharp noise of disapproval stopped her. Lea looked up at her grandmother and quickly dropped the slice into the grinder.
“You really have to push the apples in”, her grandmother said, “but mind your fingers”. Lea’s grandmother shoed her out of the chair and took over the handle. Lea pressed the apple slice into the opening of the grinder, watching as the spiral blades at the bottom eviscerated it. She dropped in more apple slices and covered the mouth of the grinder with the palm of her hand, like she did when she wanted to feed the sugar cubes to the horses but didn’t feel like loosing her fingers.
“Do you think”, Lea said, “If I stuck my fingers really down in there they would be ground off and then we’d have Lea finger relish?”
“Yes” said her grandmother without pausing, “Now really push those slices in there”.
The last slice went in and Lea pushed it down until the spiral blades took it away, smashing through the slice with fragrant tearing noises.
Her grandmother pushed aside the glass bowl of fruit and began to disassemble the grinder, placing the pieces in the big white sink. She pulled out a damp rag to wipe down the table. Removing all the visible juice from the table she set the rag back in the sink and took the sugar out of the cupboard. Taking a generous scoop of sugar from the container she poured it over the bowl of ground fruit, muting the bright colors under a blanket of white before opening the refrigerator door and bending down, put the bowl on a low shelf.


4 Responses to “Cranberry Relish”

  1. Lil Says:

    That was great. I could see it all in my mind and almost smell the tanginess of the cranberries and sweetness of the oranges. I could definitely see the grandmother. Really, really good. Really. (Just had to add the extra really, for emphasis, you know). 🙂

  2. harlequin Says:

    lea relish? I relish lea, but…

  3. smoothpebble Says:

    i was so afraid – the whole time. i was so afraid little lea was going to get her fingers too far in the grinder. i could see the sweetness of the fruit, the sugar, the girl and the the grandmother.

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